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Assignment | Pop Culture Argument Papers (Hirsch): Advanced Search: Get Better Results

Spring 2019 | ENGL 1302 | Prof. Amy Hirsch

Making the Most of Advanced Search

These databases will generally start you out with a basic one-field search not unlike what you see when you go to Google. Don't fall for it. There are 2 big benefits to database searching: you don't have to scrutinize your results for reliability, and you have the power of the Advanced Search to weed out the irrelevant.

Screenshot of a JSTOR basic search for "Civil War" which would bring back 793K results

When you're constructing your search, think about how to break your topic down into little bite-sized chunks. You can't just write "Civil War Sherman burns Atlanta" -- well, you could... but it's more effective to break it down, as shown below:

Screenshot of advanced search using multiple fields: Civil War AND United States AND Sherman AND Atlanta

As you add on additional fields for search terms, they'll be joined together by AND by default. This "AND" is the most powerful limiter: the articles you get back have to have term 1 AND term 2 AND term 3 to end up in your results.

If you notice you're getting a lot of articles about Gettysburg instead of Atlanta, you can add another field and switch the AND to a NOT (NOT Gettysburg) to help get rid of those results.

 

This is where your background research really pays off!

All those terms and phrases and ideas you developed before? They all can feed the Advanced Search machine. Be sure to consider synonyms for your different search terms so you can swap them out to play with your search. (E.g. "college" but also "university" or "higher education")

Plus, because you did that background research, you're starting off with a clearer idea of what information you need to find. This means you'll know what you need to put in those search fields to narrow it down from the massive and generic "Civil War" to "Civil War AND United States AND Sherman AND Atlanta."

Search Tips

Search exact phrases using quotation marks: "Four score and seven years" AND rhetoric

Introduce some wiggle room with wildcards. Searching econom* for example will bring back economy, economic(s), economist(s), and anything else with that root. Can be useful, can be overwhelming.

Academic Search Complete contains scholarly articles, magazine articles, and newspaper articles. Limit your search to scholarly (peer-reviewed) in the search limits. (Also, use the Full Text limiter to make sure you get back articles you can read right away!)

JSTOR is massive and hard to limit. Build yourself up to this -- it's worth the effort!
Search multiple EBSCO databases at once -- look for the "Other Databases" option just above the search bar to select additional databases.